Monday, March 15, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Parler Denied Re-entry to the App Store

William Turton and Mark Gurman:

When it initially removed Parler from the App Store in January, Apple asked the social network to change its moderation practices. Apple said that Parler’s new community guidelines, released when the service came back online Feb. 15, were insufficient to comply with the App Store rules.

[…]

“In fact, simple searches reveal highly objectionable content, including easily identified offensive uses of derogatory terms regarding race, religion and sexual orientation, as well as Nazi symbols,” Apple wrote “For these reasons your app cannot be returned to the App Store for distribution until it complies with the guidelines.”

The guidelines simply say:

1.2 User Generated Content

Apps with user-generated content present particular challenges, ranging from intellectual property infringement to anonymous bullying. To prevent abuse, apps with user-generated content or social networking services must include:

  • A method for filtering objectionable material from being posted to the app
  • A mechanism to report offensive content and timely responses to concerns
  • The ability to block abusive users from the service
  • Published contact information so users can easily reach you

Parler has all this. You can argue with how well it works, but the guidelines don’t state any specific requirements about that. They also don’t define “objectionable content,” except in the previous Section 1.1, which does not seem to be about user-generated content and is obviously not applied to other social apps.

Mike Rockwell:

Maybe you dislike Parler. And given the content on the platform, maybe there’s plenty of reasons to. But I can’t help but wonder if requiring more robust moderation systems from platform makers is in some ways bolstering the status quo.

Are these App Store policies making it even more difficult for a smaller service to actually compete with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube? Could a scrappy startup with limited resources actually buildup a compliant moderation system quick enough if they suddenly get an influx of new users?

The answer is that it depends on whether Apple likes you. If you go by Apple’s written guidelines, multiple apps were compliant, yet rejected anyway. If you go by Apple’s stated objections, none of the major apps are compliant, yet they’re in the store, anyway.

Previously:

Update (2021-03-16): Mike Rockwell:

Regardless of your opinion about Parler, it’s clear that Apple’s policies are not enforced uniformly. And yes, I agree with the likely rebuttal — the App Store is a private platform, Apple makes the rules and can remove an app for any reason. But there’s a difference between what they can do and what they should do. Without any predictability to policy enforcement, developers are left in the dark. And the smaller developers are the ones hurt the most.

[…]

But I would also advocate for opening the platform. Because no matter how hard Apple tries, the review process will never be perfect. Just let developers distribute their own apps.

8 Comments

>You can argue with how well it works, but the guidelines
>don’t state any specific requirements about that

I think it's implied that the feature should actually work, otherwise the rule would be somewhat meaningless. Since Parler's whole raison d'être is to provide an outlet for the kinds of things you get banned for on every other service, I would assume that having these features actually work would defeat the point of the application, so it's a bit of a catch-22 for them.

Having said that, Twitter and Facebook clearly also don't do things like "timely responses to concerns". But having said *that*, I also don't think it's feasible for Apple to ban these services. If Apple could ban them, they likely would. I don't think Apple is particulrly happy about having these powerful parallel ecosystems in the App Store (see Facebook Pay as an example).

>Are these App Store policies making it even more difficult
>for a smaller service to actually compete with the likes
>of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube?

I'm pretty sure "making it harder for others to compete with Apple" is the primary reason why the App Store works the way it does. The fact that it also protects other incumbents is an unintended side-effect.

“Parler has all this.”

World’s tiniest violin. Parler has its freedom of speech. Apple has its freedom of association. Apple can choose not to do business with me, you, them, or anyone else [subject to any local anti-discrimination and/or monopoly laws].

Apple choosing not to associate with violent insurrectionists and modern cross-burners is a total no-brainer from a purely business perspective, never mind the ethical dressing on top.

Anyway, F*ck Nazis.

“I'm pretty sure "making it harder for others to compete with Apple" is the primary reason why the App Store works the way it does.”

Congrats, grasshopper, on taking your first step toward Wisdom. Now you just need to realize that “others” is Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google; not you. If Epic and Parler are the ants that Apple sees when it looks down from its tower, you and me and the rest of the indie devs scraping loose change from the back of Tim’s couch are barely bacteria on the feet of the ants.

Life is inherently Unfair, and if your worst woe is “Apple won’t let me sell my product in their house” then consider yourself extraordinarily fortunate for your #FirstWorldProblems.

> Are these App Store policies making it even more difficult for a smaller service to actually compete with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube? Could a scrappy startup with limited resources actually buildup a compliant moderation system quick enough if they suddenly get an influx of new users?

This is slippery-slope argument _has already been disproved_ by the evidence and is nonsense.

Tiktok, Pinterest and Snapchat have all easily expanded to 100s of millions of users while on the AppStore. There are additionally dozens of niche social networks with 6-7 figure user numbers like Recipefy for cooking or Letterboxd for TV or Untappd for beer.

On top of that there are also huge numbers of actually-social networks like Tindr, Grindr, OkCupid and the rest.

The actual problem is that US firms are entitled under the first amendment to freedom of association, and no-one wants to be associated with neo-Nazis, white-supremacists, anti-semites, amateur terrorist-groups and violence and bigotry in general.

It can be argued that Apple's leverage of its monopoly on iOS device sales to ensure a monopoly on iOS _software_ sales is bad. Indeed I agree that it's bad, and support the option of adding alternative stores.

Yet Parler would still struggle to find an outlet even if there were dozens of stores on the platform, due to the transparency of its true purpose: providing a space for bigotry and amateur terrorism. If a store did stock it, it would only be a matter of time before Parler's users committed some new atrocity, and then campaigners asked payment-processors like Mastercard or Visa how much they'd earned on commission from those Parler users.

@Bryan Interesting point. Pinterest is not new, and from my perspective the others that you mention are not really competing with the big ones, at least not head-on. They’re doing their own things. Of course, there are plenty of reasons to believe that competing with Twitter and Facebook is hard for an upstart, even without the App Store issues. App.net didn’t have moderation problems but couldn’t make it as a business. Though if it had started today, maybe it would have attracted a different crowd?

I see why Apple doesn’t like Parler. My point is simply that they keep referring to guidelines that are not actually being violated and don’t specify what isn’t allowed. Pointing to some objectionable content that got through is not evidence of anything because we have no idea how much was already blocked. There was also no evidence presented that they were not responsive to concerns. If the standard is 100% accuracy, no social network meets that. If the standard is real-world impact, it’s clear that Facebook was far more responsible for January 6.

Old Unix Geek

"Scappy Startup"

"Tiktok" funded by the Chinese government.
"Pintrest", "Snapchat", etc: funded by large VCs.

The definition of scrappy seems to have changed.

And Parler is funded by the Mercers, but you don't raise issue with that.

If the problem is that Apple doesn't have a clear rule to cite for banning Parler, then they should add one.

>Congrats, grasshopper, on taking your first step toward Wisdom.
>Now you just need to realize that “others” is Facebook, Amazon,
>Netflix, and Google; not you.

That was implicit in what I wrote. Who else do you think "others" could possibly have referred to? I even specifically mentioned Facebook and Twitter.

You keep assuming that people don't understand the point you keep making, but we all understand it. You can stop repeating it ad nauseam. You're not imparting some kind of dangerous, secret knowledge on us, you're stating the most obvious thing in the world, again and again.

>the others that you mention are not really competing with the
>big ones

But that's how this works. These companies don't get disrupted by competitors that do the exact same thing a little bit better, they get disrupted by competitors that do a different thing, but end up taking away attention from the incumbents. Facebook wasn't a direct competitor to MySpace, but they still took them out. TikTok isn't a direct competitor to Facebook, but they're still taking away the under 40s from them.

TikTok has over a billion users. Facebook is still around 1.7 billion. They are definitely competing.

Old Unix Geek

@has

Anyway, F*ck Nazis.

Just saw this, and thought of you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp2bQRg4ESM

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